"The NEU Contest
I think someone should hold a contest to name all the things that are, in the words of the Supreme Court of the United States, not “almost entirely unreliable”, and thus should be allowed to stand as standards of evidence, or safe and effective procedure, under that standard of jurisprudence.
I’ll start – the o-rings on the solid rocket booster that blew up on launch and brought a Space Shuttle down out of the sky.
You see, the engineers responsible for certifying that the launch could proceed as safe didn’t want to, because they saw potentially serious problems with the o-rings, having witnessed excessive erosion by hot gasses in the ones recovered from previous launches and tests. But because the o-rings hadn’t failed yet, the managers of their employer and NASA contractor, Morton Thiokol, demanded that if they couldn’t prove the o-rings would fail, then they had to certify the launch. The engineers who gave in, and watched as seven or so astronauts died, including one who would have been the first schoolteacher in space, have borne the guilt of that ever since.
One can only speculate if that same Supreme Court standard of reliability set in the 1983 Barefoot v. Estelle case in any way influenced the Challenger disaster of 1986. Only such things as diet fads, health food claims, and witch-hunts allow such low standards of proof. If something went wrong, not only would any licensed professional engineer be sued with considerable justification for deviating to use them, any self-respecting engineer would be ashamed even to try.
On the other hand, politicians, legislators, judges and Morton Thiokol managers don’t seem to have that problem. Perhaps they lack a gene for a sense of shame that troubles us at times.
I don’t approve of racism. But lawyerism … look cavalierly how they treat the rest of us. "